Good Medicine Everyday: Cinnamon by emily penn

Cinnamon has been one of my favorite spices for years now. Something about it just does it for me and I never get sick of it. I add it to smoothies, coffee, yogurt bowls, chia pudding, etc. It’s got a natural sweetness that enhances the sweet quality of whatever I’m eating without adding any actual sugar + one of the major health benefits of cinnamon is that it helps with blood sugar regulation! Yes!


Before we get into the health benefits I want to touch on one thing - there are different kinds of cinnamon. Ceylon is true cinnamon. It’s also much more expensive and harder to find. Then there are other varieties, usually Cassia, which is what’s mostly available in grocery stores. The Ceylon cinnamon tastes and smells so much different from the regular stuff! It tastes like Red Hots candy. I invested in some Ceylon cinnamon and use it for special occasions and for teas (it turns red!). My daily cinnamon is the organic bulk cinnamon from Natural Grocers. There is a compound in the Cassia variety called coumarin that is believed to be harmful in large doses. Honestly, I don’t stress about this at all, but it’s good to know and keep in mind.

OKAY! Now - why you’ll want to put cinnamon on everything you eat (almost) (1):

  • Cinnamon contains lots of potent antioxidants, which we are always in need of. It has even more than garlic or oregano!

  • These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, too.

  • Just half a teaspoon per day can have an impact on blood markers like LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. It might also increase HDL cholesterol. This also makes cinnamon great for heart health!

  • Cinnamon can reduce insulin resistance, which is the mechanism by which it can help lower blood sugar levels. It can also help lower the glucose that enters your bloodstream after a meal by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates. I recommend cinnamon to all of my clients with Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Cinnamaldehyde is a compound in cinnamon that is antibacterial and antifungal, which may help prevent infection, tooth decay and it helps keep breath fresh.

Cinnamon is especially great this time of year because of its warming properties. It’s cozy, sweet and pairs so well with other seasonal foods like… apple cider, apples, pears, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc. Pair it with other warming spices like ginger, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, anise, or allspice.

Good Food: Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet + Spicy Pecans by emily penn

This was one of my favorite easy dinners to make when I was in my early twenties. I roasted some squash, crumbled some goat cheese on top and sprinkled it with Trader Joe’s Sweet and Spicy Pecans. The combination of the crunchy nuts, creamy goat cheese and sweet butternut squash is SO GOOD.

I wanted to upgrade this recipe, though because I don’t really do dairy anymore and the Trader Joe’s nuts are made with… sugar and canola oil. So while the convenience is nice, I’d much rather make my own sweet and spicy nuts with ingredients I feel good about.

If you do dairy, go for goat cheese. If not, Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta that stands in nicely. However I must warn you, the flavor profile has gone down since I last tried it a year ago. It’s really pretty bland (which makes a nice blank canvas!) so I add salt and lemon juice to give it the same flavor profile as the goat cheese. There’s also lots of smaller non-dairy cheese brands, so check your local grocery store for something that might stand in well for goat cheese or ricotta.

This is still one of the most low key dinners and it’s a beautiful side dish for the holidays and upcoming gatherings. You can make the pecans ahead of time and you’ll likely have extras, so keep some on hand for a great little seasonal snack, to. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet + Spicy Pecans

Serves 2 people as an entree, 4-6 as a side
Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes / Total time 1 hour 30 minutes

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sweet + spicy pecans
1 ¼ cups pecans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
cayenne to taste (about ⅛ tsp for a subtle kick)

1 large butternut squash, cubed
2 tbsp avocado oil
generous salt + pepper

garnish with
crumbled cheese of choice (goat cheese or Kite Hill Almond Milk Ricotta)
chopped parsley
pomegranate seeds


  1. For the pecans - preheat oven to 275. Toss everything in a large bowl until the pecans are well-coated. Arrange the pecans in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, just until pecans start to get a little dark. Allow to cool completely.

  2. For the squash - preheat oven to 400. Toss the cubed butternut squash with avocado oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, undisturbed.

  3. Remove the baking sheet after 30 minutes and increase the heat to 425. Give the butternut squash a stir. It should be starting to get golden.

  4. Roast for an additional 15 minutes, until the squash is golden and crispy on some edges.

  5. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to the dish(es) you’d like to serve it in.

  6. Sprinkle with a generous amount of pecans, your favorite cheese or non-dairy cheese, and any other toppings you’d like. Enjoy!

Good Medicine Everyday: Leafy Greens (with TWO Green Smoothie Recipes) by emily penn

We all inherently know greens are good for us, right? It’s been drilled into our heads since we were kids, and as it turns out - for good reason. Today we’re talking specifically about dark leafy greens - kale, collard greens, arugula, spinach and chard. Romaine counts, too. Sorry - iceberg doesn’t and never will count because it’s mostly water and contains very few actual nutrients.


Leafy greens are packed to the brim with nutrients! They’re also full of fiber, low in calories and high in phytonutrients (plant compounds that have a big impact on the health of your cells). Read on to learn more about the ridiculously amazing benefits of eating leafy greens daily (1):

  • Ever since this study came out earlier this year, I’ve been quoting it every chance I get: one, yes just ONE serving, of leafy greens per day SIGNIFICANTLY slows cognitive decline. This study showed that individuals who consumed green leafy vegetables had brains that appeared 11 years younger than their counterparts who consumed little to no green leafies. A cup of raw greens or 1/2 a cup of cooked greens daily is all it takes folks.

  • If you think bananas are the only place to get your potassium, I’ve got news for ya - leafy greens have it, too. A cup of cooked spinach contains 840 mg, plus all the other good stuff plus no impact on blood sugar. Potassium is essential for fluid regulation and getting adequate amounts will help keep you bloat-free.

  • Another surprise for you - leafy greens contain beta-carotene. Yep - that nutrient we usually associate with carrots and sweet potatoes? Greens have it too, making them great for supporting healthy skin.

  • Combat stress with leafy greens! They contain folate and magnesium - folate helps with mood regulation by participating in dopamine and serotonin production. Magnesium is one of my favorite nutrients to help with stress since it helps relax muscles and is depleted during times of stress.

  • Support your bones - dark leafies contain calcium and vitamin K, essential for strong bones.

  • Greens contain many anti-inflammatory properties thanks to their antioxidants and polyphenols. This also puts them in the cancer-fighting category.

  • The chlorophyll in greens supports the liver by helping to escort toxins out of the body. In our increasingly toxic world, this is so important.

Have I convinced you to eat your greens yet? It’s so simple, yet so many people go throughout their day without eating a single green thing. I personally make it a point to have greens at a minimum of one meal per day, though it’s usually more like two and if I make it to three I feel like a superhero. Here are some of my favorite ways to get your greens in:

  • Add frozen spinach to smoothies

  • Serve meals over a bed of raw greens - ex: burrito bowls served over greens, chicken + veggies over greens

  • Eating one big salad a day - I do this more in the summer, less in the winter

  • I often sauté onions, garlic and kale as a base for meals

  • Add greens to your eggs

  • Add greens to soups, stews and curries (they wilt into almost nothing!)

  • Use romaine leaves in place of tortillas and use collards as sandwich wraps (surprisingly delicious!)

And now, because I love you, I’m sharing not one, but my TWO favorite green smoothie recipes. One is a little sweeter and a great green smoothie for beginners and the other is less sweet and more deeply cleansing.

Basic Green Smoothie (Great for Beginners)

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1 frozen banana
Large handful frozen spinach (don’t be shy - you can’t taste it!)
1-2 tbsp almond butter (optional but yummy and makes the smoothie more filling)
1 cup non-dairy milk or water

  1. Add everything to a blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

Big Green Drank

1 apple or pear, chopped
1/2 lemon, peel removed
1/2 cucumber or zucchini (optional)
Large handful frozen spinach
1 knob ginger
2 tbsp hemp, chia or flax seeds
1/2 tsp spirulina (optional)
1-2 cups water (I usually just fill to the 32 oz line on my blender - hence BIG Green Drank)

  1. Add everything to a blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.